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A Presidential Nominating State Feels The Burn

The New York Times offers up Columbia, South Carolina as a snapshot of how the financial disaster hits mid-size cities. Evidently Columbia is a "microcosm of the nation over the last decade" on all kinds of economic indicators, and it's now suffering from an array of standard woes: Jobs are melting away, the recently revitalized downtown shows signs of degentrification, etc.

But, of course, there's one way Columbia differs from other mid-sized cities. Every four years it anchors the statewide make-or-break presidential primaries, and as candidates descend on the city to frenziedly court its operatives and attend debates, its issues get magnified into America's issues. I was in Columbia for last year's GOP primary, and it's amazing to remember how little the economy crept into the conversation just eleven months ago -- all the fascination was in the demise of Fred Thompson, and who would win upstate evangelicals, and whether South Carolinians would punish McCain for his stance on immigration or reward him for setting foot in the state at all, considering the wrongs they had done him in 2000.

How different would a South Carolina primary look today, with Columbia feeling the burn? Could the "Mittmentum" Jon Cohn predicted have carried Romney nearer to victory in South Carolina and given him a shot at the nomination? (Sorry to dredge up that old forecast, Jon, but don't feel bad -- I just discovered that I wrote a dispatch from South Carolina entitled "Place Your Money On Huckabee." Oops.)

Eve Fairbanks